August 27, 2013 - Topshelf
Every genre under the sun eventually circles around on itself, ready and willing to eat its own tail, ouroboros-style. So, it should be little surprise that the ’90s strain of emo that had its nucleus in the Midwest is being re-injected into the world's main vein in a crystallized form. Which is all just a nice way of saying that the sound of Crash Of Rhinos' second LP will be very familiar to any readers who came of age studying the early editions of the Emo Diaries compilation series.
This isn't necessarily a knock on what this U.K. five-piece accomplish on Knots. There's a charming warmth to the way the band strive to faithfully recreate the tangled time-signatures, strained singing and lyrics that are confessional to almost blushing degree ("Father, please pick up/the world looks wrong at this angle/it's dark"). Much of the album works in spite of its facsimiled nature. The way the steady gallop of "Opener" gives way into an open-air free fall is one of the more thrilling moments in rock music this year. Closing song "Speeds Of Ocean Greyhounds" starts off in full furrowed brow mode, but decides halfway through to take its title to heart, sending the album off with some heart-racing punk. The band are also smart enough to include mood pieces like "The Reason I Took So Long" are a welcome reprieve from the otherwise unrelenting bumper car rhythms and singer Ian Draper's scratchy wail.
Yet, anyone who knows the work of groups like Christie Front Drive or Sunny Day Real Estate has to cock at least one eyebrow in suspicion of what these boys are up to. Nostalgia is one thing, but too often Knots come across like straight up copycatting—or at least finding the disparate pieces of songs and albums that they liked and stitching them together like a homunculus. It's early days for Crash Of Rhinos, though, so there's still time for the band to evolve past this mirror image and give a truly original spin on this well-worn sound.